It never fails - you find yourself checking out or chiming in on some heated online debate about which imports rule, or even which sports cars deserve elite status, and one of the arguing parties goes to the well to whip out this chestnut: the Nissan Skyline. Known the world over as the upper echelon of performance and cutting edge technology, particularly in GT-R trim, the Skyline has served as a benchmark for decades throughout a number of its generations.
The 1950s & '60s
Over four decades ago, in 1957, the first Skyline model rolled off of the assembly line, but it wasn't wearing a Nissan or even Datsun badge. Prince Motor Company - formerly Tama Electric Car Company - produced the initial Skyline model. In the mid-'60s, Japan felt that by creating larger companies, native brands would stand a better chance of resisting hostile takeovers from foreign business heads. With encouragement from the government, Nissan and Prince Motor Company officially merged and from 1967 and on, Skylines were sold as a product of Nissan.
In 1969, the first Nissan Skyline GT-R model was introduced as a sedan and later joined by a lighter coupe chassis; fans came to call it the Hakosuka, Hako meaning "box" in Japanese and suka short for "Skyline." Powered by what was essentially considered a race engine commissioned for passenger car duty, it produced 160 horsepower - just like Porsche 911s of the same era. In just a year and a half, the Skyline sedan racked up over 30 wins in what was essentially Japanese sports car racing. That record was stretched to 50 victories when the coupe took over in competition
The R31 Nissan Skyline was introduced in the mid-'80s and under its hood sat a new engine family, dubbed the RB20 and available in both naturally aspirated and turbo versions. Just four years later, the Skyline R32 model was unveiled as a sedan and a coupe and the legendary RB26DETT mill powered the GT-R model. The advanced AWD system (ATTESA E-TS) was praised for its performance ability and synergy with the 2.6-liter, twin-turbo, inline-6 that produced 280hp (Japanese regulations prevented more power output from production cars). The combination helped the R32 remain dominant in competition, rightfully earning the nickname "Godzilla."
When the R33 model was introduced, it saw an increase in overall size and weight, but wasn't quite as successful in competition compared to its older brother. The new chassis left many feeling that the R32 was the peak of production. Wanting to focus on the ability and feel of the older model, Nissan based much of the R34s attributes on the R32, but with an improved chassis and sleeker appearance. Six different versions of the R34 Nissan Skyline were available.
The 11th generation Nissan Skyline saw major changes, including a naturally aspirated V6 rather than the traditional inline-6, the absence of turbo power, and the elimination of the GT-R model (which would later return, but without the word "Skyline" preceding it). This marked the first time that a Skyline model would be sold by US dealerships, though it was offered under the Infiniti G line.
Finding an early model Skyline is tough. Finding one in excellent condition is even tougher. I found these photos taken about nine years ago in Victorville, Calif. The car is a 1971 GT model with a few GT-R bits and was extremely well maintained both inside and out. We've also padded our gallery with a bunch of other Skyline our brands have captured over the years.